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We’ve talked with Raul Sanchez – freelance 3d artist and digital sculptor from Mexico. He shared some tips and tricks on creating great characters, building right composition and silhouette, organizing production process.
My name is Raul Sanchez and I am 3d artist/digital sculptor, who is heavily influenced by science fiction and too many horror movies. I was born in Mexico and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. After completing high school I decided to move back to Mexico to chase a career (an affordable one) and so I studied digital/game arts in UVM (Universidad del Valle de Mexico). In the last years of college I had the opportunity to work on a game called Alien Raider for Holaboss Games as a 3D modeler. After production was finished I worked for several studios like Poliedro (apps), Lemon Films (VFX/Concept design), Kokonut Studio (games and apps) and Game Starter (Incubation/Games). Currently am freelancing for Namco /Bandai and Coca-Cola FEMSA. In between when I have free time, I love entering challenges.
When I start off a high-poly model I tend to use a low-res meshes or z-spheres because I have a greater control when it comes to pushing and pulling vertices in the first few subdivisions. After that I build secondary and tertiary forms all over the model. When am happy with the sculpt I retopo in Topogun, unwrap in UVLayout and finish off the high frequency detail in Zbrush or Substance Painter.
During the whole process, for every character, I tend to face challenges like how am I going to pose this character, what type of lighting should I use, what kind of textures or skin types should I develop and mainly what tools will I use? These types of challenges are always fun and they are an opportunity to grow.
For these challenges I export the model and pre pose, pre light, or render out concepts through out the whole process to fully develop the character that am working on. This helps out a lot.
For example, when am sculpting a high poly model I try to export the model every day to Keyshot and I start shade, light and look for a nice composition. Every time. This way, once am finished with UVs and textures I already have five or six scenes created with materials and a light setup that are ready to be tweaked. Another example is the use of Substance Painter as tool to conceptualize textures on characters rather than doing that process in Photoshop and then try to recreate the final concept in 3D, Substance Painter is a time saver.
Elements of Great Character Design
I think research, silhouette, balance and contrast are very important elements of great character design.
Always do some research! Looking for elements that will guide or anchor the character can help you in later stages of the development.
A nice silhouette goes a long way! If a character reads well as a “shadow” then no matter how you pose it or light it, the character can read well.
When I say balance, I mean balance in forms. If angles and shapes are congruent with each other then there is harmony through out the character.
If you take care of details and know where to place them, then there is contrast. This will help the character have appeal and the viewer wont be confused when the whole aesthetic of the character equally screams out for attention.
These are some elements I keep in mind when I develop my characters and I would have to say research is the one that stands out the most.
When it comes to scaring the audience with my characters I try to research as much as possible with my characters. One example is my piece called The Unholy.
First I looked into witches, from there I decided that I wanted an entity that couldn’t be killed no matter what you did to it. So while I was researching, I found a story of a man who was viciously attacked by his dogs and when he lost consciousness the dog mauled his eyelids. From there everything clicked. I saw in my character design a being trapped in the body of a witch, and as they tortured her, the monster inside her only grew stronger.
Creating an Idea
When I created The Last Stand I was initially looking for a demon/creature that was captured or contained. In my mind I saw to the story of a creature that was captured but was waiting for the right moment to break loose, so although it was chained up, its body language was telling you that he couldn’t be contained..
The mood board I created for The Last Stand helped out throughout the developing stage. It helped me to stay within the idea/concept of the creature and to reference some of the possible ideas that I wanted to incorporate. So as I started to sculpt and pose I thought it would be more fun to see the creature free and on a killing spree ergo the broken sword, and the decapitated head. To dramatize the character and show his weakness/ strength I incorporated the burning arm that is ready to explode into a charging pose this way I think the character is saying “This is it, if I die, all of you come with me!”
Comic Book Characters
Doomsday is a character that I fell in love with when I first saw it. So when I started to learn Zbrush I said to myself, “I am going to sculpt Doomsday”. Unfortunately it didn’t happen in the first years that I used Zbrush.
At the beginning of this year I read Superman: Doomed and loved Doomsday’s final form. So, I started to sculpt him, I thought I was only going to do a medium shot of Doomsday but as I progressed the sculpt I saw that I needed to do a full body Doomsday, from there the weekend project turned into a month project. Really happy with how this Doomsday turned out.
The Sentry Batman was made for the Brainstorm Challenge: Batman Redesign. When I worked on this model I had a lot of work on my back so I sculpted really fast a bust and added some scales with the IMM brush. The challenge turned out great and I had the great opportunity to showcase my Batman redesign along other great artists.
As for the favorite characters I really love the bad guys from DC and Marvel universe, I think they’re really fun to create and if it wasn’t for the bad guys we wouldn’t have so many great heroes. Right now I can tell you I am working on a Pepsi/Marvel card redesign and I have the chance to do some justice for the Hulk 2099! So be on the lookout for lots of WIPS and images on my media platforms.
Tips and Tricks
Some pointers I would give to new artists would be to work on anatomy! Take your time to learn where muscles connect, how they work and mainly where they are. I think it’s a big foundation and basic skillset you´ll need for future creations.
Take your time when you create characters, don’t rush them! As your building your portfolio you want to show good execution when it comes to sculpt, retopology, texturing and rendering. If you rush those parts of the process, then the final piece can lack aesthetic and it will influence your portfolio.
Learn to get critique and calm the ego down! Don’t be afraid to show your work! Use the forums to your advantage and be ready for honest critique, it can hurt but it’s sometimes the only way to grow. Believe me!
Work for it guys! If you’re a student now, use your time wisely and grind!